Get Smart for summer

by Debora Van Brenk – The London Free Press – June 05, 2012

About 20 London households remain hydro-meter holdouts — adamantly refusing to allow London Hydro installers to switch their homes to smart meters.

“We’re really trying hard to work with each of those customers,” says London Hydro spokesperson Nancy Hutton.

Despite letters and phone calls and other entreaties, 132 refusals remained on the books by the end of March. That number has been whittled down to fewer than two dozen, Hutton says.

A report that asks the Ontario Energy Board for approval to recoup smart meter costs from all Londoners notes there’s been some push-back and includes this ominous warning: “London Hydro will have to revert to more aggressive means (e.g. service disconnections, etc.) in the forthcoming months to complete the smart meter installations.”

Nearly 135,000 London homes have smart meters, at a total cost of about $24 million. The meters transmit signals that track how much electricity a home is using, and when. Those who use more hydro during peak hours pay higher rates; off-peak hours afford lower rates.

But a few customers have dug in their heels.

Some argue they should be able to choose whether they get new meters; others say time-of-use monitoring is a Big Brother invasion of their privacy.

But Hutton says the province and London Hydro are adamant that everyone convert to time-of-use meters.

Those on the old, non-digital meters are now charged for their hydro use on a price structure based on their total electricity consumption instead of time of use. The province is pondering a move that they instead be charged at premium rates.

Or, warns a London Hydro letter that gives the residents two days to make things right, the utility could sever their lines at a disconnect/reconnect charge of $185 to $600.

Hutton admits those two days have come and gone without consequence and no old-meter user has been disconnected. Yet.

“Now that we’re at this number, we anticipate that we’ll get a little more serious about it. We don’t really have a choice. They’ve had two years (to change).”

Energy Minister Chris Bentley said Tuesday that time-of-use metering “is a big tool that will be very, very helpful” as Ontarians track and conserve their energy use. He noted Ontario is the first large North American jurisdiction to convert all meters to time-of-use.

[email protected]

Go figure: New summer rates muddle comparisons

London Hydro’s smart meters went live in March and April. But new and higher summer rates started May 1, making it difficult for most Londoners to deduce the score and compare it to last year.

If you used more electricity in May 2012 than a year earlier — but more at off-peak times — your hydro bill might have dropped slightly.

If you’ve used less juice, but more of it at peak daytime hours, your bill might even be higher than it was.

Better numbers should be available for comparison in a few weeks, as more of May’s bills are calculated, says London Hydro spokesperson Nancy Hutton.

Then again, maybe you want to wait a bit longer to figure it all out: it’s apt to change in a month or two, anyhow.

London Hydro is awaiting word on whether, and when, the Ontario Energy Board will allow it to add about $1.52 each month to the average London resident’s electricity bill.

That fee would be used to pay off the $24 million — or about $180 per residence — the utility spent buying operating, maintaining and administering London’s 135,000 smart meter network.

That fee might also be retroactive to April.

And the Independent Electricity System Operator has applied to the board to add 80 cents to customers’ monthly bills to offset the cost of setting up and running a province-wide hub that verifies and stores everyone’s meter data in a central location.


Summer pricing

n Overnight and on weekends/holidays (off-peak) — 6.5¢ per kilowatt-hour

n Weekdays, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (mid-peak) — 10 cents/kWh

n Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (peak) — 11.7¢/kWh


London customers can track their use and calculate their tabs daily by checking into “My Account”